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Ming Da Amp review.

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It's a fine line people tread when reviewing kit. No one wants to write about something negatively when that thing has been done with all the best intentions. Unless you are a Trip Advisor warrior determined to exact revenge for the slightly undercooked egg you had in a 2 star B&B. I am not that man. What I am is a man that enjoys music first and Hi-Fi second. I am also a friend to Jack of BD Audio and therefore put myself in a tricky position when I drunkenly asked him to send me a Ming Da integrated for review.

In the cold light of day I realised what I had done. Most of my favourite music is Rock and Electronica. All of the best Hi-Fi I have heard (playing that kind of music) is solid state. Adam's Naim and Neat rig springs immediately to mind. That's my flavour of Hi-Fi. It's got to start and stop on a dime and swing faster and harder than a middle aged couple from Surrey. Valves don't do that, right?

So here's the honest bone dry truth. I told Jack that if I didn't like it, I wouldn't write a review. He's a mate and without friends, life is pretty crap. Now, the more alert of you will have already worked it out; as you are reading this it's safe to bet I liked the amp. I did. Rather a lot, which is annoying, because when I'm in a trolling mood I like to mock Valves and cast dreadful generalisations about them. And now, it's time to eat my words.

The Ming Da Happy Place Golden world Fun times, Lovely time Amplification Module for prolonged life, comes from China. Sadly that isn't it's real name, it's rather tragically titled the MC368-B 902. Which is a dreaful name. So I am going to refer to it as the The Ming Da Happy Place Golden world Fun times, Lovely time Amplification Module for prolonged life. Or TMDHPGWFT,LTAMFPL for short.

The boring info: It has 4 inputs, 5 glowy bottle things, three of which are big, and it produces 18 Watts of power and enough heat to warm a small child to medium rare. It has a remote control hewn from a billet of aluminium and the buttons are tactile little ball bearings which roll around alluringly under your thumb. The remote does volume and mute only. To change channels, get up fatty. Inputs are all RCA plugs at line level. Build quality on the TMDHPGWFT,LTAMFPL's is heavy, sexy and really rather good. An excellent cover is provided for the hot bits too. Oh and it has a nice lit VU meter.. drool.. The wiring is all good quality point to point stuff and the knobs are shiny, solid and satisfyingly clunkable. If you want more technical details than that, please do feel free to go out and meet people. (That or click your way to the BD-Audio web site.)

The important bit is how does it sound? I used it with my very sensitive Triangle Antal eSW speakers, which are from France and are therefore “French”. I also used a Cambridge Audio DAC being fed by lossless files via a Squeeze box and a TEAC VRDS 7. Oh and my TV/Panasonic Blu ray for some Movie duty.

The first thing that struck me listening to Albert King was how surprisingly quiet it was. There is no noise, just air and space between the notes. It does that high end trick of seeming to have lots of time on each note. In the same way a world class number 10 never looks under pressure on the Rugby pitch, this amp seems to always have “time on the ball”. Even Stevie Ray Vaughan playing fast and hard on “Love struck baby” couldn't muddle it. It's surprisingly fast. Moving to Orbital, Dwr Buddah sounded thunderous, the bass plummets low. There is a slight weakness here, you have to drive all to ear splitting volumes to find it (so I am being unfairly picky) but the bass is what lets go first under real pressure. It doesn't lack depth, far from it, just lacks a little control on really deep bass at rather high volumes. Most people would never find it, as at normal volumes even the thundering bass of the Prodigy and Orbital sounded tuneful and clear. Not as tight as my Arcam FMJ, but you have to spend a lot on valves to get solid state sounding bass. It's good. The TMDHPGWFT,LTAMFPL's bass is good. Better than satisfactory and at this price quite excellent. But that's not where the TMDHPGWFT,LTAMFPL truly excels. No, where it excels way beyond it's price point is with the mid and high registers. Voices project into the room in a way that any of my solid state amps could only ever dream of. The way guitar notes and the close miked details from the fret board spring into the room is utterly beguiling.

Listening to the Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is a test for any hifi. I think the music is sensational, but the recording is slightly muddled and “muddy” in my view. This amp really pulled the detail out of the recording and allowed me to pick an instrument and follow it along. It really has got me thinking hard now about what I want from my Hi-Fi. Can I give that up to get back to the slightly extra taught bass and extra dynamism I get from solid state? I'm not sure the trade off is there, the Ming Da is too good. The TMDHPGWFT,LTAMFPL is dynamic, but 18watts is never going to slam like 80, no matter how you cut it (well not at sensible money anyway). But it doesn't lack dynamism in any way. I need to now spend some time reacquainting myself with my current amp and having a really good think.

I am not going to recommend this amp only to people that like acoustic or guitar music, nor am I going to say it's great with Classical music – even though Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet had me sitting mouth agog for an hour or more. No, that would be both a cliché and unfair. This amp is a good amp. A wonderful amp. For all. This amp provides a very real taste of the high end at a very realistic price (£995.00). If you can do better for that money I'd like to hear it. I think the XTZ I reviewed a while back is more practical, cheaper and sounds fantastic. Anyone buying one would get a nod of approval for a wise buy from me. However, if you want to buy based purely on sound quality and you have a grand to spend, then really I struggle to think how you could better this. You could get different, but not better IMO.

Get one, listen to it and then wonder how the hek they do it. They must be made in China or.. oh.. :D

oh and if you think that's a gushing review, trust me I am trying to restrain myself. It's a wonderful bit of kit.

4.7 thumbs out of 5. :^:^:^:^:^

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And another sees the light... :D

Now all you need is a set of non-energy waster speakers and you won't complain about slam and bass with 'only' 18 Watts either... :P

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And another sees the light... :D

Now all you need is a set of non-energy waster speakers and you won't complain about slam and bass with 'only' 18 Watts either... :P

Not sure that 91db per Watt could be classed as energy waster. :-)

And I hope I wasn't complaining, just comparing. And at the margins too :^

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Moderator

Nice review James. That's what valves do, IME. They charm and enchant and beguile you in a way that solid-state just plain can't. And if you want that bass back, buy some speakers with decently-sized drivers! :P

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Have edited the bit about bass and slam to be clear.

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Great review. I had a few hours with the expensive phono stage, but because I am no TT expert and haven't compared with lots of similarly priced phono stages, I haven't made a big song and dance about it on the forums. It was really, really good though - although comparing it to the P10 is itself unfair because of the price difference.

I think the biggest challenges for Ming Da is brand image and, as Jack himself has said, competition from the second hand market.

If prospective purchasers can get over that, they are in for some cracking kit. :^

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Not sure that 91db per Watt could be classed as energy waster. :-)

And I hope I wasn't complaining, just comparing. And at the margins too :^

lol, 91dB/1W is about 1% efficiency. :D

Great review, made me larf! :^

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lol, 91dB/1W is about 1% efficiency. :D

Great review, made me larf! :^

0.9% more efficient than most then :)

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Super Wammer

Nice review James, I think you have done enough to keep the review sample :-)

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Nice review James, I think you have done enough to keep the review sample :-)

Haha can someone tell Jack please, he's picking it up on Monday. The courier might have a fight on his hands. :)

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